An Interview: Eric Krasno of Soulive
J-man: I appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Krasno: Of course, yeah.
J-man: Soulive is in it’s 10th year as a band, what’s changed since that first year?
Krasno: Man, so much. It's funny because I think in a lot of ways we’ve grown so much but now we’re kind of like coming back in a way, at least to the instrumentation, that we started with. Over the 10 years we’ve obviously experimented with a lot of different sounds and a lot of collaborations. And I think that obviously helped us grow as a band, and definitely collaborating with different artists adds a lot of depth to what we do. And also, just trying different sounds and touring with different people and actually now, we’re just much more experienced. I think our writing has changed a lot too. I think; basically we never wanted to put boundaries on it. I think when we first came out a lot of people saw it as a throw-back band. Like, and organ trio that does the music of Grant Green and shit, you know? I think we wanted a lot more than that, you know? We grew up listening to so many other types of music. So, what we wanted to do was to take that instrumentation and infuse all other sorts of influences with that.
J-man: I’ve noticed as of recently, wherever Soulive goes Nigel Hall is close to follow. What brought Nigel into the mix? And what do you think Nigel adds, or takes away from the original trio?
Krasno: Well, it’s funny because we don’t really consider… Nigel, isn’t really necessarily a part of this band as much as a part of the label and the crew. So a few years ago I wanted to start… I’ve been wanting to start a label for a long time and a couple of years ago we started getting it off the ground, started making a website and getting and idea together. Around that same time Ryan Zoidis introduced me to Nigel. Actually at the time, I was making a record of my own music and wrote a lot of lyrics and I was singing on the record, and I wasn’t like totally happy with how my vocals sounded. And I was like, you know, I would really like to try having a singer in this band, you know? Which was Chapter 2, kind of before it was called Chapter 2... Which, there was no name then. So I actually brought him down to New York. Ryan Zoidis was like “Man, I know this great singer and he plays keys.” and I was like “Oh, that’s perfect. I need a keyboard player in the band too.” So he came down and within the first day we recorded, like all of these songs that I had written. And, you know, we just like formed this like, awesome partnership and we have been writing and recording almost non-stop since then. Once I started introducing him around to everyone else; everyone was like “Shit, you should sing in our band too!” (Laughs) you know, because he’s so good. He sings so many different styles so well. So we just kind of bring him around whenever he is available and he lives in Brooklyn now so we’re just getting close to finishing his album. So basically what happened was; I had all of these different tunes and a lot of them were in different genres and styles, so some of them ended up on his album and some of them ended up on mine. So, we culminated a new thing called Chapter 2, which is me , him, Deitch and Louis Cato. Now we’re recording that project over the next couple of months. So basically all of the stuff came out . So we’re just basically building up our catalogue and trying to get as many things out there as we can. I mean, I think he adds a lot, back to the question I guess, what he adds to Soulive, I mean… The reason Nigel was selected was; he can kind of open the show and play by himself and it’s really engaging but it’s also like a thing where, you know, it kind of builds up into Soulive set, you know? But, he’s a musician and he would just as much like to hear Neil play as much as play himself. I think it’s kind of a good combination because he really wants to hear the band play, you know? Whereas a lot of vocalist think, it’s about them. When he plays with Soulive it’s about the band, you know? So I think that’s important.
J-man: I see that Soulive is slated to play 10 shows at the Brooklyn Bowl in March, what brought that on? Additionally, what are your thoughts on the venue and the opportunity?
Krasno: Well, I think it’s great, I live in the neighborhood so it’s kind of like a local hang out for me now and the owner Peter Shapiro is a great, I’ve know him for, psh… I don’t know, about fifteen years now and he was the owner of the Wetlands and gave us a lot of our first opportunities to play shows and do a residency there. So it’s kind of interesting. It’s coming full circle, to work with him. I’m excited. A lot of people know about the venue and a lot of people are excited to come sit in. So we’re gonna have a lot of cool guests and I think there is going to be a lot of like, spontaneous invention going on.
J-man: Furthermore, in regards to obscure venues; how was Jamcruise? And do you as a musician view that as sort of a vacation as well as a gig?
Krasno: Oh, definitely, definitely… Yeah it’s the kind of thing where it’s always at that time of the year where I’m ready to get away from New York and from like touring in a band, or a bus, or whatever. (Laughs) So, I always look forward to it. It’s fun and we stop at different places. I always get to bring friends with me whether it’s band members or other bands that are there. So, it’s a good time. Also, again, there are a lot of collaborations going on there. I get to play with George Porter or whoever else is around. You It's a fun time.
J-man: How was your trip to Tokyo and what brought that on? Additionally, what made you decide to release that recording?
Krasno: Well, we have been going to Japan a few times a year, ever since we started the band. We’ve always loved the fans there, and it’s a different show when we play there. It’s like they get really quiet for the ballads and they get really excited… They’re a really responsive audience and we knew the ten year anniversary was coming up and we wanted to do kind of like what we considered as like, a best of. Like various other… Blue Note put out a compilation of what they liked. We’ve always thought that we were more of a live band than a studio band. Although, we’re developing the studio sound. We also had the opportunity to have Ryan (Zoidis) and Sam (Kininger) there, along with Christian Scott on trumpet. We were just like “we’re going over there and we’re bringing the horn section. Let’s record all of our favorite tunes from the last ten years. I guess it was our version of a “best of” from the first ten years.
J-man: When a band like Soulive plays in other countries, how is the turn out and do you find that people are familiar with your music and the band?
Krasno: Oh definitely. More so in Japan than anywhere else, including here. In Japan, I’d say we have the biggest following of anywhere.
J-man: That’s interesting. Why do you think that is?
Krasno: Well, it’s promotion by the labels and whatnot. But it’s also their appreciation for soul, jazz and funk. It’s a whole different world over there. It’s also the way that the promote music. People still buy record there and… Japan today, supports the artists continually. They stay with you. So are fans are fans for life there. That’s a beautiful thing.
J-man: What are your thoughts on the festival scene? Do you think it’s a productive environment for artists or more of an opportunity for exposure?
Krasno: Oh yeah, Yeah… I think it is. There are a lot of really cool ideas. Obviously, Bonnaroo has blown up to a whole other level. And it’s cool to see all of these different bands getting involved in it. There is one called Wanderlust that’s going on this summer, that’s going to be in Lake Tahoe, that my brother is involved with. It was my brothers brainchild. And they are basically promoting eco-friendly technology and kind of doing the whole yoga part to it. So, it’s like music, yoga, the organic food element… So it’s like, not only a chance for musician but companies that are doing some really cool stuff to kind of show what they’re about and present to people alternative ways of doing things. So, I think , you know, especially festivals like that I really dig and support. It's informative as well as a good time for everybody.
J-man: How did Lettuce come about and what’s next for that project?
Krasno: Lettuce started in 1992, which is going to show how old we are, but, we were sophomores in high school and we all just loved funk music. This was at Berklee summer program for kids, and uh, we all ended up going to Berklee for a little while. Some stayed longer… I was only there for one semester. Um, and then we, uh, always stayed in touch , and we’re all really close friends. We have just made music over the years. Actually we’re going to make an album this year. I don’t know when it’s going to come out, but we’re going to record in the early part of the spring.
J-man: What do you find to be the main differences between playing with Soulive as compared to your other projects like Lettuce and Chapter 2?
Krasno: Well, I would say, first thing; Lettuce is a funk ensemble. So I’m very much a piece to a huge puzzle. There’s two guitars, three horns, bass, drums, keyboards. It’s a band that we experiment, but it’s all over a very defined pulse and like a funk thing that is kind of relentless. (Laughs) you know what I mean?
J-man: Yeah, sure.
Krasno: And like, I would say Soulive is much more of a like, and exploratory thing for me. There is only three of us And we can take it anywhere we want and we don’t have to write set lists. We don’t even have to even play a song for that matter because Neil and Alan and I are so connected as a unit, that we can kind of go anywhere, you know? Especially with the fact that Neil plays bass with his left hand and does all of the chords and everything. It’s really, really a great situation for improvising and for exploring different things and trying different harmonies. It’s more of a cerebral experience. Where as Lettuce is just a funk party. It’s a party all night, you know we party. We make people dance all night. And Chapter 2, we also explore and stuff. But I’d say it’s more based on rock music. It’s all based on song writing. It’s like lyrical and it’s… We do improvise but it’s within a structure of a song. It’s kind of my ode to all of the music that I grew up on, like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and you know, all that kind of stuff. So, I’d say that’s kind of how I define those three different projects.
J-man: Speaking to the other members of Soulive, were you familiar with Moon Boot Lover prior to playing with Alan and Neil?
Krasno: Absolutely, because Lettuce was doing shows with Moon Boot Lover, so we were opening for them, we did a festival with them. That’s how I got to know those guys.
J-man: Of the musicians you have been fortunate enough to play with, who really stands out to you as far as heroes and influences?
Krasno: Well, definitely Stevie Wonder, probably my all time favorite musician. He sat in with us before. We also got to work with Chaka Kahn, that was a big one for me. John Scofield… I mean it’s kind of a long list. I’m really fortunate to have played with Derek Trucks. I mean I feel that he is one of my peers because we’re almost the same age. Actually he is younger than me. (Laughs) Even though I respect him on a level just like any of those other people that I mentioned. I’ve learned quite a bit from him and worked a lot with him.
J-man: Speaking to that specifically, I’ve heard rumors of an emerging group consisting of Yourself, Derek Trucks, Oteil, Kofi, and Adam Deitch. Can you tell me a little bit about that project and how it came about?
Krasno: Wow, I really wish that was true. (Laughs)
J-man: I saw the picture that was circulating so…
Krasno: Well, that group may show up one day for a gig, but that was a studio session that we did. We did a studio session for the project that Derek and Susan are doing. But who the band is going to be is kind of unclear. I mean now they are doing shows this year, but I won’t be there.
J-man: So then you’re referring to Soul Stew Revival, correct?
Krasno: Yeah… I guess that’s what they’re calling it. I think the last time I saw that they were doing a gig somewhere it said “Derek & Susan Band” or, I don’t know what they’re calling it actually. But uh, yeah I will definitely be involved in making the record. But, you know, I have so many other things going on and I would like nothing more than to play with them. But it’s hard to, uh, carve out a lot of time for that.
Krasno: But if asked to do a tour, and I had time to plan for it, I would absolutely do it in a second. (Laughs)
J-man: Yeah, I bet. Personally, I was really excited about the project that you did with John Medeski & Adam Deitch; “The Itch”…
Krasno: Oh, yeah!
J-man: is there any chance of seeing that project re-unite at some point?
Krasno: You know… I have no idea. He kind of called me and we just did that, like last second and then we never did it again. I kind of expected that uh, we would do it again. I think it’s just that he’s busy and he’s kind of starting a family and stuff. But you know… If it ever happens, me and Adam are into it, I know that much.
J-man: Yeah, how could you not be, with someone like John Medeski?
Krasno: Yeah, he’s one of the greatest.
J-man: For sure.
Krasno: I have a feeling it will happen again. I don’t know if it will happen regularly, but I’m sure it will happen again… In fact, maybe I’ll call him now and try to make that happen.
J-man: I would strongly encourage that. I saw you guys at All Good and it blew me away.
Krasno: I mean, I think we only did… Oh no, we did two gigs. We did two festival gigs and that all that we’ve really done.
J-man: Is there anything you’d like to promote?
Krasno: Yes, I have a new album that’s coming out on April 27th and it’s call Reminisce. It’s my first solo album. It’s something that I have worked on over the last three to four years, like on and off and it’s… You know, I’m really excited about it. It’s kind of the prelude to the Chapter 2 album which is going to be coming, hopefully in the summer time. I also want to promote royalfamilyrecords.com. Because I’ll have my record coming out in April, and soon after will be Nigel’s album, then the Chapter 2 album. Then we have a new Soulive album that we did, which is kind of our interpretation of Beatles tunes that we did. It’s really just like a project that we put together in a few days… But I think it came out really cool. It’s kind of just an idea that we just jumped on. We thought “This is cool, we should do it.” and we did.
J-man: What’s the solo project being called Is it just “Eric Krasno” or…
Krasno: Yeah, that’s just “Eric Krasno” and then soon after that, it will be Chapter 2. And the Eric Krasno record, my solo record is like… You know, it’s like really guitar heavy and I call it Reminisce, because it’s me going back through all of the stages of my musical education. You can kind of hear me hinting at different influences and you know, I have like some stuff that is kind of in the Santana vibe, and I’m taking a little bit from Jeff Beck and Benson and all of the guy that I loved growing up. So, it’s kind of a guitar album.
J-man: Who is playing on that one with you?
Krasno: That one; Adam Deitch, Louis Cato, and Stu Brooks who plays bass for Dub Trio. He’s on there, Nigel’s on there. There’s a lot of the tracks I play a lot of the instruments on. I played bass, guitar and some keyboards… Deitch even played some keyboards. So we’re kind of moving around. Alan plays on it, Neil plays on it… Who else? Yeah, that’s pretty much it. It’ just like the whole Lettuce crew; Sam and Zoidis, you I’ve got horns on a couple of tracks. It’s all of the regulars, you know? The “usual suspects”.
J-man: Are you’re doing Jazz Fest this year correct?
Krasno: Yeah, we will be there. The release of my album will be during that week, so I’m going to be doing a bunch of shows surrounding that and then we’re going to do the Royal Family Ball the second Thursday, which is always our big event. If anyone can; come check that out, it’s going to be major. Pretty much all of the projects that are involved with The Royal Family will be there.
J-man: Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Krasno: I really appreciate you promoting all of our stuff.
J-man: I’ll see you guys in Syracuse.
Krasno: Cool man, looking forward to it.
Soulive Live at Neighborhood Theatre on October 31, 2009.
Lettuce Live at Bear Creek Music Festival on November 14, 2009.